Fire Dept. Creating Volunteer Effort

Thursday, 17 March 2011

By Kristal Dixon, Cherokee Tribune

Cherokee County residents who want to support their local fire department will soon have another way to help.

Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services is seeking members for its new Citizen Fire Corps.

The agency will have an informational meeting at 6:30 p.m. on April 7 at the county Administration Building in Canton.

The Citizens Fire Corps is a national initiative launched in 2002 as part of the Department of Homeland Security's Citizen Corps Program. It allows residents to assist local public safety departments in nonemergency efforts.

The creation of the corps provides another outlet for residents to volunteer and become involved in their community, said Sgt. Babette Davis, who coordinates fire education for Cherokee Fire-ES.

"We see that there's a need for our citizens to become more informed," she said. "A lot of people do want to volunteer their time."

Corps members will help with such duties as providing fire and safety education to the public and cataloging county home addresses to provide accurate information to first-responders.

The volunteers could provide assistance with just about anything, Cherokee Fire-ES Capt. Bill Hamby said, such as installing smoke detectors for residents who need assistance and reviewing homeowners' emergency action plans.

Hamby said he hopes to see between 15 and 20 people become members of the corps.

Volunteers need to be 18 or older, but there are no residency requirements.

Ms. Davis said the program would be "self-supporting," noting participants probably would have to conduct fundraisers.

According to the Citizens Corps' website, there are 15 corps organizations across the state.

Alpharetta's Fire and Emergency Services started its Citizen Corps program in 2004, said Lt. Gary Robinson, who oversees the program.

Its program has about 300 participants and since its inception, the department has used $60,000 in federal grants to train the volunteers.

Robinson said one of the volunteers' roles is to serve as the "eyes and ears" of public safety officials at special events and educational sessions. The volunteers improve operations without increasing staff costs.

"We don't have to bring in people to do overtime," he said.

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